Simon Gagne set to make emotional return to Philadelphia

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During the off-season when it came time for the Philadelphia Flyers to shed some salary to be able to have some spending flexibility during the summer, there weren’t a lot of candidates to be sent out of town to make it happen. One guy who stood out amongst the pack thanks to having just one year remaining on his contract was Simon Gagne. Sure enough, it was Gagne who was traded to Tampa Bay for Matt Walker in a cost-cutting move. Gagne who was a lifetime Flyer up to that point is still much beloved in Philadelphia, and considering how cuddly Philly fans are, that says a lot about what they think of his time there.

Now it’s time for Gagne to make his first appearance in Philadelphia as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning, and CSN Philly’s Tim Panaccio finds out that Gagne is expecting his homecoming to be a welcome one.

“It’ll be special. It will mean a lot. I spent 11 years there and 11 years in one life is a lot. And it’s not just the 11 years. I started my career there. I was a rookie there. When I left home for the first time I went to Philly. … Going back there is going to be weird. It’s going to be hard.

“I was laughing with the [Tampa and Montreal] media today about how it’s going to be tough to make sure I go to the left side and the locker room where we’re supposed to be and not the Flyers locker room.”

Among the vast array of new generation players – those who came to the Flyers two decades after their two Stanley Cups – Gagne was among the most congenial “gentlemen” to ever wear orange ‘n black.

He was pure class from the time he arrived with the Flyers until the time he left. He was also among a handful of Flyers who you never heard anyone say a bad thing about, including opposing players.

Whenever people think about the Philadelphia Flyers and their players, you’d be hard pressed to find the words “pure class” or “gentlemen” being applied to anyone throughout the team’s history. Gagne, however, is a different breed. He was always the pure offense on a team often littered with enforcers and power forwards who made their living laying the body all over the ice. With Flyers fans still having a place in their hearts (yes, they do have them) for Gagne, this may be one of the few Philly homecomings for an opponent that doesn’t end in a cascade of boos.

Time will tell if Philly letting Gagne go was the right move for them as a team. Financially it made complete sense as his $5 million salary was just too much for the Flyers to keep around when looking for salary cap space. You wonder if they’ll miss out on his offense. The Flyers brought in Nikolay Zherdev on the comparative cheap to try and fill the hole left by dealing Gagne and his performance this season will help determine whether or not he ends up being the focus of fans’ anger. Replacing Gagne in Philly isn’t a role anyone should be eager to fill and his reception tonight will be proof positive of that.

PHT Morning Skate: Draft weekend winners and losers; Will Tkachuk go pro?

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• There’s a good chance that the Vegas Golden Knights won’t be able to bring back James Neal and David Perron. Both players will become unrestricted free agents on July 1st if they don’t re-sign. (Sportsnet)

• Signing John Tavares won’t be easy for the Toronto Maple Leafs because they have to pay Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Mitch Marner soon, but could they entice him with a one-year deal worth almost $16 million? (TSN.ca)

• Is it possible that Dougie Hamilton‘s passion for museums got him traded out of Calgary? This is a weird one. (Yahoo)

• Flames Nation takes a deeper look at the potential reasons why Hamilton was shipped out of town. It’s entirely possible that there were issues in the locker room after all. (Flames Nation)

• Caps forward Lars Eller got the rockstar treatment at the Danish embassy. (Washington Post)

• ESPN writers Emily Kaplan and Greg Wyshynski look at the winners and losers of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. Of course, Gary Bettman ended up on this list more than once. (ESPN)

• Now that the draft has come and gone, Sens prospect Brady Tkachuk has to decide if he’s going to turn pro or return to Boston University. (Ottawa Sun)

• It’s unclear when Canadiens prospect Jesperi Kotkaniemi will sign his entry-level deal, but Habs Eyes on the Prize takes a deeper look at what that contract may look like (Habs Eyes on the Prize)

• The New York Rangers had a solid draft weekend, as they added some quality prospects to their pipeline. (Blue Seat Blogs)

• You may have missed this one on Friday, but the Anaheim Ducks fired assistant coach Steve Konowalchuk. (Anaheim Calling)

• Acquiring Bobby Ryan might not be such a bad thing for the Vegas Golden Knights. He would be the ultimate Golden Misfit. (SinBin.Vegas)

• Late on Sunday night, the Detroit Red Wings traded Robbie Russo to the Arizona Coyotes. (Winging it in Motown)

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

John Carlson gets $64M payday as Capitals lock up defenseman

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The Washington Capitals cleared salary cap space for a big reason and it paid off on Sunday as they’ve agreed to a long-term deal with defenseman John Carlson.

It’s a $64 million extension over eight years for the 28-year-old. According to Pierre LeBrun, within the details of the contract are $2 million signing bonuses that land on July 1, 2020 and July 1, 2022, a.k.a. Possible Lockout Seasons.

“John has been an exceptional and consistent player for our franchise and has blossomed into being one of the top defensemen in the NHL,” said Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan. “Defenseman like John are a rare commodity in our League and, at 28 years of age, we feel he is just entering his prime. As a right-handed defenseman, John plays in all key situations and has contributed greatly to our team’s success on the special teams. We are pleased for both parties to have come to an agreement and for him to continue his great career as a Washington Capital.”

Carlson, who would have been an unrestricted free agent on July 1, picked the right time to have a career season and lead all NHL defensemen in scoring. In playing all 82 games during the regular season, he posted career highs in goals (15), assists (53), points (68), ice time (24:47) and power play assists (28). The production continued in the playoffs with five goals and 20 points as the Capitals claimed the 2018 Stanley Cup. He would finish fifth in the Norris Trophy voting.

The Capitals and Carlson’s camp had not come to an agreement as of Sunday morning, so his agent began taking calls from other interested teams as the free agent interview period opened. MacLellan did a good job of clearing cap space for an extension, shipping Brooks Orpik and his $5.5 million cap hit to the Colorado Avalanche along with restricted free agent goaltender Philipp Grubauer on Friday.

Carlson’s priority was to remain in Washington.

“This has been my home. I’ve lived here every summer since I’ve been here,” Carlson said during locker clean out day. “This is my home base and obviously the guys that I’ve been around, the experiences we’ve had. I love the area and this is all I know.”

In other Capitals defenseman news, the team has an offer out to Carlson’s defense partner Michal Kempny, who was acquired in February from Chicago and turned into a valuable piece en route to the Cup. And then there’s Orpik, who was waived after being acquired by the Avalanche. Once his buyout from Colorado becomes official, he’ll become an unrestricted free agent, setting up the possibility of a return to Washington.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Could Capitals be on verge of losing John Carlson?

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(UPDATE: No, he’s staying. Eight-year, $64 million extension for Carlson.)

While the sweet aroma of winning the Stanley Cup isn’t likely to fade any time soon, the brief stench of the business side of hockey could once again crop up in Washington.

Already having lost Stanley Cup-winning head coach Barry Trotz last week, the Capitals could be on the verge of losing top-scoring defenseman John Carlson from the 2017-18 season as well.

Maybe.

With no deal in place to extend the skilled rearguard, Carlson’s agent, Rick Curran, said while they’re still trying to hash out a deal with the Capitals, his client, who led all NHL d-men with 68 points this past season, is going to listen to other teams after the interview period commenced at 12:00 a.m. on Sunday morning.

On Friday, Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said a deal with Carlson was “close” to being achieved.

“Hopefully we can get it done here over the next few days. We’re really close,” he said.

But as of Sunday morning, there’s still no deal in place for the man who set a Caps franchise record for most points by a defenseman in the playoffs with 20.

MacLellan has made room for Carlson. Needing the necessary cap space to give him his raise, MacLellan dealt backup netminder Philipp Grubauer and veteran defenseman Brooks Orpik to the Colorado Avalanche — the later of which had a $5.5 million cap hit attached to him.

For now, the savings account hasn’t been touched.

For Carlson, he has earned the right to test the free agent waters, and Washington obviously hasn’t met whatever demands 28-year-old has for his new deal.

It’s important to point out, as the Associated Press’ Stephen Whyno did Sunday, that Washington is the only team that can give Carlson eight years of term in a new deal. As Whyno said, this shouldn’t be overlooked.

Losing Carlson would be a big blow, so it’s kind of surprising it’s gotten to this point from the Capitals side, although Carlson could be doing what he’s earned — looking to see if the grass is greener on the other side — and using this time as leverage in talks with Washington.

A simple formula: Player wants the team to meet demands, the team isn’t there yet, forcing the player to play hardball, in turn forcing the team’s hand, or something like that, roughly speaking.

Caps beat writer for the Washington Post Isabelle Khurshudyan wrote Sunday that despite the noise surrounding Carlson, she still expects the d-man to re-sign in the nation’s capital.

#CarlsonWatch continues for now.

Have your say here:


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Hurricanes have much to do, but headed in right direction after blockbuster deal

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There’s a long way to go to rebuild the Carolina Hurricanes into a contending hockey team, but they took a nice step in the right direction on Saturday.

The hockey world has had 24 hours to digest that five-player blockbuster trade on the second day of the 2018 NHL Draft — one that included defenseman Dougie Hamilton heading to the east coast once again and defenseman Noah Hanifin heading to Cow Town.

The verdict? That we won’t know for some time yet (as with any trade in its immediate infancy), but for a Hurricanes team desperate for a sheet of ice in the playoffs, the move certainly turned their aim in that direction.

Calgary got younger with 21-year-old Hanifin and 23-year-old Elias Lindholmbut the move broke up one of the league’s premier defense pairings in the process. Carolina added one-half of that pairing, and it seems more clear that the Hurricanes — who also used their second overall selection on Andrei Svechnikov earlier in the day — got better.

Worlds like “elite defenseman,” “career-year” and “highly-touted” were all uttered to help explain the three players — Hamilton, Micheal Ferland and Adam Fox, respectively — that Carolina snatched up in Saturday’s wheeling and dealing.

Not too shabby, right? The Hurricanes got immediate help on defense and forward with a quality prospect on the backend developing (if he eventually signs).

Winning trades has been something of a foreign concept when attached to Don Waddell during his tenure as an NHL general manager. His exploits as the GM of the Atlanta Thrashers meant years of needed repair after the team moved to Winnipeg in 2011, for instance.

So Saturday’s deal was a win-win for Carolina fans, who had to fear what Waddell might do to their team after being handed the reigns earlier this year.

“We’ve gone nine years missing the playoffs… we’re going to try to change up the culture a little bit,” Waddell said from the draft. “We feel that all three pieces are going to make our hockey club better not just today but going into the future.”

The Canes received a beefy, skilled defenseman in Hamilton who’s good for 40 points a year and can play big minutes. He’s also still just 25 and comes in at a nice price point at $5.75 AAV with three years left on that deal.

With Jaccob Slavin, captain Justin Faulk, Haydn Fleury and Trevor van Riemsdyk also in that rearguard, it became all the more formidable with the arrival of Hamilton.

Hamilton seems to carry around an aura of split opinion on his ability (and personality, apparently). But his underlying numbers suggest he’s among the best defenseman in the game. Elite, even.

Carolina also acquired fellow d-man Adam Fox in the deal, a promising 20-year-old prospect who’s been showing great signs playing at Harvard in the NCAA.

And they got Micheal Ferland, a physical terror on the ice who found his scoring punch this past season with 21 goals.

(It should be noted that Bill Peters — now the coach in Calgary — coached Hanifin and Elias Lindholm in Carolina. He knows the duo like the back of his hand.)

What’s next?

This bit is critical now.

With one issue squared away, the Hurricanes can now turn to other areas that need addressing.

The futures of the aforementioned Faulk (UFA ’20) and Jeff Skinner (UFA ’19) need attention, of course. Both have been churning in the rumor mill and would likely command a nice haul in return. Keeping Faulk in that now-formidable backend might seem like a no-brainer. Or maybe not…

If Faulk is expendable, then he’d be best used in a deal that shores up Carolina’s most pressing issue — its goaltending.

Scott Darling hasn’t worked out and Cam Ward isn’t coming back.

With Philipp Grubauer going to Colorado (perhaps, in part, by design), the list of unrestricted free agent goaltenders capable of being starters is slim at best.

Carter Hutton has shown flashes, as has Anton Khudonbin (who already had one stint in Carolina). With Grubauer out of the picture, those are the two best options with UFA status

Skinner and/or Faulk could be the carrot dangled in a potential move that would see a goalie in return and Waddell told reporters in Dallas on Saturday that he intends on landing a netminder.

A trade involving either could also be used to help Carolina find a left-handed defenseman. They have a glut of right-hand shots now with the arrival Hamilton and the departure of Hanifin on the backend, so perhaps something that turns Faulk into another top LHD helps Waddell pull the trigger.

For the moment, Hurricanes fans can rest on the fact that their team got better over the weekend. And they can hope that the direction from this weekend will filter down into next when the free agency window opens up on July 1.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck